Following a meeting Monday with Queen Elizabeth II, it’s clear that Prince Harry and Meghan are coming to Canada for “a period of transition.”
What’s not clear is whether the couple intend to continue to divide their time between the two countries after everything has been arranged; whether they will eventually settle permanently in Canada; or, whether they have their sights set on another country, perhaps the United States, where Meghan is reportedly still a citizen. If they did choose to make Canada their permanent, primary home, would they get any special treatment in regards to Canada’s immigration system?
As the grandson of Canada’s monarch and sixth in line to the throne, one might expect Prince Harry to have some special status in this country. But the Duke of Sussex enjoys no such privilege, nor do any of the Queen’s descendants. Even the Queen does not hold Canadian citizenship, although she could reside in Canada for as long as she wants.
“She has a different kind of status but it’s not citizenship. It’s a state authority,” said Carleton University Professor Philippe Lagassé, an expert on the Westminster system. “She’s the personification of the state, so she doesn’t need a passport to enter. She would have all legal rights because everything done by governance is done in her name.”
This special status, however, only applies to the Queen because Canadian law only recognizes the ruling British monarch.
“It’s a very simple rule — whoever’s their monarch is our monarch,” Lagassé said. “We don’t have any provisions in our law for Royals having particular privileges or status. We don’t even have laws that recognize Royals as being Canadian Royals.”
Canada will not automatically grant the royal couple citizenship, and would need to apply to become permanent residents through the normal immigration process, Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for the immigration minister, told the CBC in a statement. The minister’s office did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment before deadline.
That means Prince Harry will be entering Canada as any other British citizen would, and all British citizens can stay in Canada for up to six months without a visa. It’s the same for U.S. citizens. So Harry and Meghan’s short-term plan could simply be to travel back and forth between Canada and the U.K. at least twice a year — although that would put Meghan’s application for British citizenship at risk.
If the couple wants Canada to be their economic base, visitor visas won’t help them with their long-term goal of becoming financially independent as neither of them would be permitted to work in the country, said Harjit Grewal, an immigration consultant with Sterling Immigration who works in Vancouver and London.
However, it’s entirely possible that Meghan is already a permanent resident in Canada, Grewal said. While she was filming the TV show Suits, Meghan lived in Toronto for nine months of the year for seven years, until she moved to the U.K. to live with Harry in November 2017.
If, during that time, she got a self-employed visa, aimed at people who work in cultural activities or athletics, then she would have been granted permanent residency. That would mean that Meghan is still eligible to live and work — in any field — in Canada, and that she could sponsor Harry and their son Archie.
The couple could also qualify for a business visa, if they chose to invest some of their vast wealth in Canada, Grewal said. He also pointed out that, if Meghan and Harry successfully monetize the Sussex brand, Canada could be eager to fast-track their applications and welcome them as taxpaying citizens.
We don’t have any provisions in our law for Royals having particular privileges or status
Another option is the federal skilled worker (express entry) program, but the couple might not fare too well under that points-based system since Prince Harry doesn’t have a university degree and they are both over 30, Grewal said. Prince Harry is 35 and Meghan is 38.
While the couple have no legal status, in the eyes of many Canadians, there is a cultural connection to the country as members of the Royal family, Lagassé said, but that doesn’t change the law.
“To what extent do you bend the law to accommodate people of fairly significant means?” Lagassé said. “It becomes a political question, not a legal one at that point.”
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